Welcome back to Make-u-believe! With a blog this time looking at a subject that is steeped with history and often mystery… Today we explore the origins of Alchemy.
Alchemy is based on the philosophy of ‘Hermetics’, a magical and religious movement which is believed to stem from Egypt or Greece.
We love looking at etymology, the origin of words, and the word Alchemy could stem from a play of two words from lands in close contact at the time; ‘Al-Khemet’, meaning ‘from Egypt’, as ancient Egypt was known as Khemet, or Greek ‘Kimi’.
Alchemy covers several philosophical traditions spanning some four millennia and three continents. These traditions’ general penchant for cryptic and symbolic language makes it hard to trace their mutual influences and “genetic” relationships. One can distinguish at least three major strands, which appear to be largely independent, at least in their earlier stages: Chinese alchemy, centered in China and its zone of cultural influence; Indian alchemy, centered around the Indian subcontinent; and Western alchemy, which occurred around the Mediterranean and whose center has shifted over the millennia from Greco-Roman Egypt, to the Islamic world, and finally medieval Europe. Chinese alchemy was closely connected to Taoism and Indian alchemy with the Dharmic faiths, whereas Western alchemy developed its own philosophical system that was largely independent of, but influenced by, various Western religions. It is still an open question whether these three strands share a common origin, or to what extent they influenced each other.
The true concept in Alchemical study is often misunderstood, as there is a lot of mineral symbolism which can be misleading, and although it influenced much of early science, Alchemy is actually concerned with not only chemical operations but also steps to conciousness. Which means Alchemy not only looked at carbon reacting to fire and transmuting into diamond; but also how to transform the universal order in other ways. It is an archetype, a way of behaving, that guides and supports life on the material plane and also a way of bringing spirit and science together.
We also found it interesting that it is believed like modern wicca, alchemy saw the world as a male/ female duality the masculine polarity as red & fixed, feminine as white & volatile. The union of these two produced the physical world, the great work in Alchemy is to unite and transcend this duality, which is why it is often mistakenly described with the quest to transmute metals. The masculine was considered into the sun and also to sulphur, whereas the feminine was considered luna and likened mercury. The inner fire which they described as the internal flame or the divine spot was described as salt.
The idea of Alchemy and the symbols which represent the ‘internal flame’ inspired us to create some Alchemical body art, looking at these shapes and forms and bringing them onto the figure, as seen above and below.
We are very excited that our good friend, and the master of challenging what we have been taught to be true, with his wealth of knowledge of symbols and shapes, Christopher Deojee is coming to our local town to talk about gender and some of the missunderstood shapes. We love his research on male energy as ‘the line’, symbolising the ‘charge’ and female energy being ‘the circle’, symbolising ‘change’, amongst many other tantalising subjects! He gets to the root of all kinds of beliefs and ideas, and presents these incredible concepts about basic shapes, gender, authority and decoding the alphabet. See more of his magic with words on his website www.christoPherdeojee.com, and if you can make any of his talks, do prepare for your mind to be blown!
We hope you enjoy our firey Alchemists Joe and Jenni, until next time!